Robert Frost: Poems

Robert Frost: Poems Summary and Analysis of "Mowing" (1913)

As the narrator works in the field on a hot day, he notices that his scythe seems to be whispering as it works. The narrator is unable to hear what the scythe is saying, and he admits the possibility that the whispering sound is simply his imagination or even the result of heatstroke. He eventually concludes that the scythe is expressing its own beliefs about the world. Instead of dreaming about inactivity or reward for its labor as a person would, the scythe takes its sole pleasure from its hard work. It receives satisfaction from “the fact” of its earnest labor in the field, not from transient dreams or irrational hopes. As the poem ends, the narrator ceases his own unimportant musings and follows the scythe’s example: seizing on the pleasure of hard work and making hay.


In terms of rhyme scheme, “Mowing” does not follow the traditional form of the sonnet, though it does include the standard fourteen lines. Instead of using the strict Petrarchan rhyme scheme (ABBAABBA CDECDE) or the Shakespearean rhyme scheme (ABAB CDCD EFEF GG), Frost creates an amalgamation of both: ABC ABD ECD FEG FG.

This poem is one of the first in which Frost utilizes his “sound of sense” technique. Within this technique, the poet employs specific sounds and syllables in order to construct an aural feeling of the subject and narrative intention. In this case, both the repeated use of the term “whisper” and the swaying motion of the meter in certain lines (such as “Perhaps it was something…/ Something perhaps) provide a visceral sense of the scythe moving back and forth as it cuts the hay in the field.

The fact that Frost uses the word “whisper” is significant because it personifies the scythe, transforming it into a companion and working colleague for the narrator rather than an inanimate farming tool. With that in mind, the scythe and its philosophical view on work could actually be seen as a reflection of the narrator’s own beliefs, or rather a belief that the farmer hopes to have as he continues to work on his farm. The circular nature of the poem supports this claim: by the end of the poem, the narrator has stopped attempting to analyze the scythe’s whispering within his imagination and has resorted to simple, honest work.

This mentality can be expanded as Frost’s justification of his own poetic sensibility. Frost was well known (and often criticized) for writing poetry about everyday life on the farms of New England - a topic that did not always seem appropriate for the high art of poetry. Yet, as Frost points out in “Mowing,” truth and fact are far more significant than imaginative fancies of gold and elves. In other words, his emphasis on reality — the lives and struggles of real people — makes his poetry sweeter and more effective than any traditional sonnet that narrates fairytale lands.